Posts Tagged ‘Insects’

Shieldbug and Diving Beetle

August 12, 2018

Two recent visitors to our garden: a Spiked Shieldbug (Picromerus bidens)


Picromerus bidens

not all that common in the northwest, and a Diving Beetle (Dytiscus semisulcatus)


Dytiscus semisulcatus

that appeared to mistake our black car for a dark peaty pool. It took off and flew around for a while but came back for another try.  This is a species I have recorded before on Raasay, but not at home.

Recent Insects and a Tar-spot Fungus

July 29, 2018

I’ve not been plant-hunting as such this last week but here are a few recent sightings:


Dark Arches found in the house


Map-winged Swift


Barred Yellow

From Acer campestre (Field Maple), a planted specimen on Raasay, a flower bug:


Anthocoris nemoralis, not the commoner A. nemorum

And from the top of Dun Caan, Raasay:

Willow Tarspot on Salix herbacea

Willow Tarspot on Salix herbacea

Sròn nan Aighean and Beinn a’ Sga

July 19, 2018

This is the ridge running east-west as a spur of the Trotternish Ridge that I had intended to cover a couple of years ago but then had to return to the top of Flasvein to retrieve my camera.

Yesterday’s visit was well worthwhile with Poa glauca (Glaucous Meadow-grass), four species of saxifrage, the Nationally Scarce Euphrasia ostenfeldii (Ostenfeld’s Eyebright) and oddly, my first record of the year for Botrychium lunaria (Moonwort). June is normally the peak month for Moonwort records on Skye, but maybe the extreme dry weather has held it back. Also: Carex bigelowii (Stiff Sedge) checked as having stomata only on the underside of the leaves at a modest altitude for this plant of c.450m and Luzula spicata (Spiked Wood-Rush).

Two patches of Epilobium alsinifolium (Chickweed Willowherb) were nice, and down below on the bank of a burn there was Lycopodium clavatum (Stag’s-horn Clubmoss).

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I thought I had found Empetrum nigrum subsp. hermaphroditum (Mountain Crowberry) but close examination of fruits did not support this.

On the way home I went to see Morag’s find of Galium verum (Lady’s Bedstraw) in Portree – the first localised record and the first post-1999 record in NG44 (much commoner in the west of Skye):

Galium verum Portree

Galium verum in Portree


and I was shown this rather fine wasp nest in Portree:


Wasp Nest Portree

Gob na h-Oa

July 14, 2018

Gob na h-Oa (The Tip of Oa, if that helps) is a point west of Fiskavaig partly in tetrad NG33C, which until yesterday had a mere 29 plant taxa recorded. There are now 138. It is 92% sea but the land has some nice cliffs with Anthyllis vulneraria (Kidney Vetch) and Rubus saxatilis (Stone Bramble) and there are good colonies of Honckenya peploides (Sea Sandwort) and Populus tremula (Aspen).

The sea caves are good:


and there were moths about including lots of Yellow Shells:


Yellow Shell

I dropped down into Camas Aird an t-Sabhail to look for Carex arenaria (Sand Sedge), a rare plant on Skye and last recorded there in 1977. I am pleased to report a thriving population:


Carex arenaria (Sand Sedge)

On the way home I stopped at Sligachan to look for Hammarbya paludosa (Bog Orchid) – success: 9 plants – and Rhynchospora fusca (Brown Beak-sedge) – total failure.

There were also more grasshoppers about than we usually see on Skye or Raasay. It seems to be a good year for them here.

Chorthippus parallelus ( Meadow grasshopper)

Chorthippus parallelus (Meadow grasshopper)

The short wings are useful in the determination. It was released after the photoshoot – no grasshoppers were harmed in the making of this blog.

Strath Mòr

July 12, 2018

Strath Mòr runs from Luib in the north to near Torrin in the south and contains lochs and marsh with interesting species. The highlight of my recent visit was a single flowering Hammarbya paludosa (Bog Orchid), the first record for NG52 since 1976.


Nor for the first time, I failed to find any Eriocaulon aquaticum (Pipewort) in Loch na Sguabaidh. My predecessor also failed to find it. The source of the records is the 1989 NCC Freshwater Loch Survey and I suspect rosettes of Isoetes lacustris (Quillwort) may have been mistaken for it. Either that, or a small population was there and has been lost.


Isoetes lacustris in Loch na Sguabaidh

Also, Schoenoplectus lacustris (Common Club-rush) is not to be found at “Abhainn an t-Sratha Mhoir, 1km length above NG562249” as reported in 1990. Again I have tried before and so did my predecessor. However, small colonies are missable – the only known Raasay site is a few chewed stems that were overlooked until 2000.

There were several sites for Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort). A single plant had flowered though was a little past is prime:

Utricularia stygia Strath Mor

Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort)

Otherwise….. lots of smuts on Star Sedge, various dragons and damsels, too many green-eyed Deerflies, a Brown China-mark moth and lots of toads.


July 6, 2018

On Tuesday, Skye Nature Group went to Tokavaig to look at Dorothy’s croft which is managed by her and Andy for the benefit of wildlife and the environment  – which includes scything the bracken and woodland regeneration.

We recorded 156 plant species and 92 other species from lichens to amphibians, but mostly invertebrates. It contains a variety of habitats and at least two of us want to make a return visit, preferably with Nick to cover bryophytes as well – perhaps next year.

In the process I added a few plants to the list for both NG61A and NG61B and down in the wet area I was able to show Dorothy her Sparganium erectum (Branched Bur-reed) which I struggled to find back in 2012.


Sparganium erectum (Branched Bur-reed) – with a rust?

We found several orchids that seemed to me to be pretty clearly Dactylorhiza x formosa (D. maculata x purpurella), but they smelled sweet, like Gymnadenia. Further investigation showed that the nearby Dactylorhiza purpurella (Northern Marsh-orchid) also smelled  sweet. Not a property I was aware of before, but then who smells orchids that are not supposed to smell?  Well, obviously Hilary does. And now so do I.

The best thing of the day for me was a shower of Keeled Skimmers (Orthetrum coerulescens), something I do not remember seeing on Skye before and which on Skye is almost restricted to Sleat.


Keeled Skimmer

Clearing Up – though not finished yet. Part 2

July 2, 2018

From Tayinloan to Waternish to check on the Aceana. It looked like this:


Acaena Waternish

which looks exactly like the A. inermis on Raasay this evening, but I still want see it look like this later in the year:

Acaena inermis Moll 0509

Acaena inermis

From there to Dunvegan to check things found during a Skye Nature Group outing in April. What we thought might be a Cotoneaster turns out to be Crinodendron hookerianum (Chinese Lantern Bush):


Crinodendron hookerianum

I have entered this directly to the BSBI database as MapMate doesn’t recognise it. Third Scottish record on the database, the other two being not far away in VC105. (Just two in England.)

I wasn’t sure that I re-found the putative Ulex minor (Dwarf Gorse) but have a specimen to examine some time soon……

To finish off the day I went to Roskill to up the species count in tetrad NG24X and added 52 taxa, though this had me baffled for a while:


Hesperis matronalis (Dame’s-violet)

Thanks, Tim, for helping me out.

I could go on, but finally here are a couple of insects:


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SBG on Soay (Updated)

June 30, 2018

Yesterday Skye Botany Group went to Soay hoping to re-find some plants not recorded there – or indeed anywhere in NG41 – since before 2000.

We added three plants new to NG41: Carex extensa (Long-bracted Sedge), Cotoneaster integrifolius (Entire-leaved Cotoneaster) and Ribes rubrum (Red Currant), the last two being garden escapes, but the first is welcome – if a bit of a surprise that it had not been recorded before.

We also saw four that had not been recorded in NG41 since before 2000: Carex oederi (Small-fruited Yellow-sedge), Carex leporina (Oval Sedge), Elytrigia repens (Common Couch) and Rosa mollis (Soft Downy-rose) – probably – see below.

In tetrad NG42L, which we visited briefly we recorded 69 taxa of which two were new. In tetrad NG42M, where we were for most of the day we recorded 143 taxa of which 30 were new. This was already the Soay tetrad with most taxa recorded.

We checked up on the Cladium mariscus (Great Fen-sedge) which was thriving in Loch Doire an Lochain.

We found a rose that leaves me a bit uncertain. It is mostly OK for Rosa mollis (Soft Downy-rose) but some hips devoid of glandular hairs worry me a bit – and there was a  hint of apple scent about the crushed leaves – though they are supposed to smell resinous.


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Nick spent a very hot day exploring the south-west of Soay in a tetrad with no previous bryophyte records and found 81 species. He recorded some vascular plants on the way, adding Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson’s Filmy-fern) to tetrad NG41G and Eleogiton fluitans (Floating Club-rush) to NG41L.

I was pleased to find the Bumblebee Fly or Giant Tachinid Fly (Tachina grossa) again just a week after seeing it on Colonsay.


Tachina grossa on Soay

It appears to be new to Skye (if Soay counts as Skye) according to NBN. Later: Neil tells me he saw one in Drumfearn in 2014 but it doesn’t seem to have hit the NBN.

We all liked the look of this Deerfly – Chrysops relictus – but beware, it bites.

Deer fly

Chrysops relictus                             Photo: Neil Roberts

Seth has written this visit up from a different perspective -see here.


June 24, 2018

I have just spent an excellent week outside my patch on Colonsay with David, Kevin, Pete and Simon. Colonsay is about 2/3rds the size of Raasay and the highest point 1/3rd that of Raasay, but the other major difference is the presence of sand, lots of sand. So its has several plants at I hardly ever see such as Anchusa arvensis (Bugloss) and Anagallis arvensis (Scarlet Pimpernel) and several that have never been recorded from VC104 such as Radiola linoides (Allseed). It also represents the northern limit (more or less) for the fen plants Epipactis palustris (Marsh Helleborine) and Juncus subnodulosus (Blunt-flowered Rush).

Interestingly, there was a great deal of Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort) in flower. Whilst this appears to be the only representative of the U. intermedia aggregate in  my patch, I have only once seen it in flower on Skye.


Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort)

There were good insects too:

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June 13, 2018

Following my excursion into the heart of the Cuillin I have had a couple of shortish lowland trips. Firstly, I went into a tetrad with only two records (ever) southwest of  Mugeary. Secondly, in between the dentist in Kyle and a forestry meeting back on Raasay, I  visited Loch nam Madadh Uisge and Luib, principally to resolve the ridiculous position of having no post-1999 record of Eleocharis palustris (Common Spike-rush) for the entire 100km2 that is NG52. (Well, 92.8km2 that is land or freshwater, if anyone is counting.) There are 20 pre-2000 records in eight different tetrads.

The Mugeary tetrad was mostly pretty dull – forestry plantation or uninspiring moor, but to get there I passed though some really nice marsh/wet meadow and at the end of my time in the target tetrad (NG43I) I found a stretch of burn that had many of the common species I had not seen plus a splendid bog with Comarum palustre (Marsh Cinquefoil) and Carex canescens (White Sedge) which cheered me up and helped raise the taxon count for the tetrad to a magnificent 85.

There were also Large Heath (as well as Small Heath) butterflies and a fine Northern Eggar moth:

Moving on….. At Loch nam Madadh Uisge, finding Eleocharis palustris (Common Spike-rush) turned out to be harder than I expected. The loch is full of the similar Eleocharis multicaulis (Many-stalked Spike-rush), but I eventually found a few spikes in the wee burn at the north end. I had forgotten that this loch is a Pipewort loch and the flower stalks were now above water level – though the leaf rosettes alone are very distinctive.

I also spotted my first flowering Dactylorhiza incarnata (Early Marsh-orchid) and Platanthera bifolia (Lesser Butterfly-orchid) of the year: